It’s not their problem, it’s yours

From time to time, I get requests to write something that clarifies a client’s existing instructions or procedures. When I ask the reason, I’m nearly always told that the customers or other audience just doesn’t understand. They aren’t doing what we want them to do or following the steps in the order we prefer.

My job is to craft the magic words that will transform these miscreants into conformists. And it’s nearly always a waste of time.

If your audience is already failing to follow the steps you prefer, it may be because they have no reason to do so. They may not even be reading all of your instructions, and no matter how well-written my clarification may be, they still won’t do it.

A more logical approach is to change your own procedures to reflect what they’re doing. If you keep trying to change their behavior, you’re only going to frustrate yourself. Instead, take the time to understand how they think and react, and reorient your procedures based on that. Both sides will probably be happier with the results.

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